Phatic: Word of the Day (May 19, 2012)

by Meia Geddes

phatic \FAT-ik\, adjective:

Denoting speech used to create an atmosphere of goodwill.

We conduct phatic discourse indispensable to maintaining a constant connection among speakers; but phatic speech is indispensable precisely because it keeps the possibility of communication in working order, for the purpose of other and more substantial communications.
— Umberto Eco, Travels in Hyperreality

They’re just filling the air with noise. This is what’s called phatic speech. “How are you?” they might ask.
— Adriana Lopez, Fifteen Candles

Coined by the anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski, phatic was first used in 1923. It probably comes from the Greek word phatos meaning “spoken.”

Meia’s sentence: Negotiations for peace necessitate phatic discourse, though sincerity ultimately maintains the dialogue.

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